When Yellowknife artist Alida Ryan started painting eight years ago, it was to kill time. Now, she’s preparing for her first solo art show in Yellowknife in November.
Ryan has given away most of her works as wedding or birthday gifts, having picked up painting when she was living in a house without wi-fi. “It was maybe a handful a year,” she said.
Cut to 2021 and Ryan, a member of the military, has been on a streak since moving to Yellowknife in 2019 with her husband and three children.
She completed 72 paintings in 2020 – a jump from five the year before – and is on track to exceed that in 2021, having completed 60 paintings with more to come.
Ryan will show around 15 of them at Yellowknife’s Mermaid and Moon Boutique on November 5 and 6. Many are inspired by a recent artists’ retreat she attended at a lodge in the Tłı̨chǫ region.
Each painting evokes a different aspect of the Arctic landscape: red, gold, and green threaded through a tundra sky, northern mountains against a backdrop of pastel blues and purples, or a real caribou antler, colourfully painted with a delicate feather.
“I love being grounded in nature,” Ryan explained. “Going for walks, feeling the moss that’s just so soft … feeling the leaves.”
It helped that Ryan was able to connect with fellow artists like Nicole Loubert, Robyn Scott, and Meredith McNulty – the owner of Mermaid and Moon – when she moved to the city.
“I had paintings at Mermaid and Moon and Down to Earth Gallery, I did the Anonymous Art Show, and I was the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre artist of the month for April 2021,” she said.
“There have been lots of opportunities that I don’t think I would have gotten anywhere else.”
Ryan has taught art classes at the city’s Military Family Resource Centre and for the Foster Family Coalition. Her art is featured in an upcoming NWT colouring book.
Art, she said, has provided a sanctuary during lockdowns and a creative outlet with which her family has bonded. It also helped Ryan cope with postpartum depression after having her third child.
“I was dealing with that kind of depression-anxiety that I’ve never really had before,” she said. “Learning ways to cope with it … putting all those emotions out, and not just holding on to them, has helped me.
“It’s just my passion, and a way to get through life.”